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Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Updated: April 29, 6:23 PM ET
WSOP Circuit continues to struggle


Bernard Lee tackled this topic last month, but after posting that piece, in the back of my head I believed there was one bright spot ahead for the World Series of Poker Circuit that could shake off the negativity. The stop in Las Vegas is typically the final stop on the WSOP Circuit and is essentially a home game for many of the pros who spend their days and nights in Las Vegas. With impressive numbers (872) seen at the $5,000 North American Poker Tour event at the Venetian and a record-setting field of 1,240 at the most recent 5,000 euro European Poker Tour stop in San Remo, the $5,150 WSOPC was poised to have a nice showing at Caesars Palace … right?

Not even close.

Instead of a positive increase in attendance year over year, the WSOPC event dropped from 187 in 2009 to a meager 150 in 2010. Before you start yelling at your computer screen, yes, I know that the EPT Grand Final at Monte Carlo is taking place at the same time; I'll get to that in a second. Numbers are down in that event as well (935 to 848), but let's stay with the WSOPC and look at some major factors that could have affected the turnout at this tournament.

First, the event is not televised. The NAPT, EPT and just about everything else that ends in "PT" seems to be getting airtime on a number of platforms. Whether that on-camera performance can strictly be found online or on TV, players know that the only way they gain major recognition is to be seen by the masses. Recognition leads to endorsements; endorsements lead to cash; and as my good friend Steve Rosenbloom always says, "Follow the money." The WSOP Circuit, which typically doesn't even have any reporters on site to cover the event, got the nod from PokerNews' live reporting team this time around, but that's about the extent of interest from the poker space.

Second, there are currently other more exciting destinations. Vegas may be the nuts for a lot of us, but if you're a pro and can head overseas for a tournament and maybe a vacation, you're probably going to choose the latter. San Remo leads right into Monte Carlo, so if you're already abroad and have the bankroll, you're probably going to hit up both stops instead of coming home.

Third, there just isn't any excitement surrounding the WSOP Circuit at all. The tour has one of the biggest brands in gaming (Harrah's) behind it, and players would rather be elsewhere. Wouldn't you want to win a WSOP Circuit title? Isn't the prestige there just by name association? Circuit events are (or were) poker "majors." The company owns a good part of the strip (Harrah's, Imperial Palace, Caesars, Bills, Flamingo … I think even O'Sheas!) and should be running satellites for this event nonstop to build momentum for the tournament and make it one of the elite stops of the year. There have been weaker turnouts in other cities (St. Louis had 129 earlier this month), but this is Vegas, and when you think of poker, you should think of Vegas. This is the biggest stop of the year for the tour and it should all lead into the WSOP. Which leads me to my next point …

Timing! There are a number of other stops that conflict with this tournament. I already mentioned the two EPT events that could bring players overseas. On the East Coast, the Borgata managed to finish with 383 players in a $3,500 event! The players seem to be anywhere but Vegas right now, despite the conclusion of the WPT Championship two days before the start of this event. Finally, it's a stretch, but PokerStars' SCOOP and Full Tilt's FTOPS are going on right now as well. Maybe sitting at home is just easier these days.

I'll leave the final critique to Matthew Parvis, editor-in-chief of PokerNews.com. "I think [the tour] is in a tough spot being that they have no big online sponsor to push them, the locations are not as glitzy as other tours and from what I hear from players the structures are not as good." Making the players happy is very important and the last thing any tournament director wants is constant critiques from Allen Kessler.

We've seen just how powerful the WSOP and Harrah's can be when it comes to producing the biggest poker events in the world, but it seems that the WSOPC seems to be sitting at the dinner table waiting for scraps from everyone else. The tour can be a real factor in the poker space, but until some changes are made, 100-player fields will continue to be the norm.

And on that note, here's the final table for the 150-player WSOP Circuit event in Las Vegas. Play resumes at 5 p.m. ET, and the winner will take home $190,137.

Steve O'Dwyer ($644,000)
James Carroll ($575,000)
Dan Casetta ($489,000)
Diego Sanchez ($472,000)
Brock Parker ($465,000)
Andrew Lichtenberger ($348,000)
Matt Stout ($270,000)
Aaron Been ($198,000)
Thu Nguyen ($157,000)
Anthony Yeh ($101,000)